Otto Warmbier’s parents share new details about son’s condition after imprisonment in North Korea

Information comes in first round of nationally televised interviews since late U.Va. student’s death


Fred and Cindy Warmbier appeared on CNN Tuesday. 

Courtesy CNN | Cavalier Daily

The parents of the late University student Otto Warmbier spoke on both “Fox & Friends” and CNN Tuesday, offering their first public remarks since the death of their son this past summer.

In their interview on Fox, Fred and Cindy Warmbier condemned Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea.

“They’re terrorists,” Fred Warmbier said to Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt. “They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him [and] they intentionally injured him.”

North Korea detained Otto Warmbier in January 2016 after accusing him of attempting to remove a political poster from the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, but was released this past June in what was reported to be a comatose state. Upon his return, Warmbier was found to have suffered immense brain damage and passed away six days later. Little is known about the conditions Warmbier faced while imprisoned in the isolated country. 

When members of the family, including siblings Austin and Greta, arrived to meet Warmbier for the first time, they were confronted with a disturbing scene.

“When we got halfway up the steps [of the plane], we heard this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound,” Fred Warmbier said.

Later in the interview with Fox, Cindy Warmbier revealed that she almost passed out from the harrowing experience. Overcoming the feeling, she rode in the ambulance with her son because she “did not want him to be alone anymore. He’d been alone for way too long.”

Although Warmbier suffered immense brain damage during his time in North Korea, which North Korea claims was caused by botulism, his parents revealed an array of other symptoms and afflictions.

“He was blind,” Fred Warmbier said. “He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.” He also mentioned the presence of a large scar on Warmbier’s right foot.

In a later interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, the Warmbiers introduced additional specifics, such as that Otto’s hands and legs were “totally deformed.”

Despite learning about their son’s condition, the Warmbier family hoped for gradual progress.

“So what we pictured, because we’re optimists, is that Otto would be asleep and maybe in a medically-induced coma and then when our doctors here would work with him and he’d get the best care and love that he would come out of it,” Cindy Warmbier said on Fox.

But that optimism faded when Warmbier was medically examined in his hometown of Cincinnati, where a team of doctors at the University of Cincinnati’s neuroscience intensive care unit described his status as one of “unresponsive wakefulness.”

Fred Warmbier, who praised President Donald Trump’s administration for helping to bring his son home, urged the government to officially label the DPRK as a terrorist regime.

“It was astounding to Cindy and I that North Korea is not listed as a state sponsor of terror,” he said. “We owe it to the world to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terror.”

Trump, who called Warmbier’s treatment at the hands of the North Koreans a “disgrace,” praised the interview on Fox and tweeted that “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”

The couple also talked on CNN about their decision not to have an autopsy performed on their son, saying they felt Otto had suffered enough. 

"I wasn't going to let him out of my sight," Cindy Warmbier said. "And I didn't."

The new information regarding the late Warmbier’s state comes amidst a period of rising tensions between North Korea and the United States. The DPRK has conducted multiple nuclear missile tests since Warmbier’s death, prompting Trump to announce a new set of economic sanctions against the nation. Trump is also keeping “devastating” military options on the table, despite not preferring them.

North Korea has responded to Trump’s rhetoric by claiming that the U.S. has declared war, which American officials have denied. 

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